The Lumberton City Council this week debated the merits of a voluntary recycling program for city residents, but in the end took no action, apparently paralyzed by the fear of a nickel a day that Waste Management would charge for the curbside service.
It’s unclear when — or if — the council will revisit the issue. Even if that happens, the water might be muddied by the fact that some council members aren’t pleased with Waste Management, and could oppose extending the contract with the garbage collector when it expires in 2013.
But what is clear is that the city — and Robeson County — need to do more to promote recycling, an effort that begins with providing for opportunities.
In 2008, the state Department of Environmental and Natural Resources ranked Robeson County 98th out of the state’s 100 counties for recycling plastic bottles. There’s little reason to hope that the county fares much better when it comes to recycling other reusable products, such as aluminum, glass, paper, cardboard, etc.
The most vocal councilmen in opposition were John Cantey and Leon Maynor, who represent precincts that are surely poorer than the rest. And we do appreciate their protection of their constituents’ pocketbooks, even at $1.65 a month. But the yearly cost, 20 cents shy of 20 bucks, can be recaptured by sacrificing a trip or two to the movie theater. We think it’s a reasonable sacrifice to recycle goods, therefore stretching resources and conserving energy.
Also, the additional $1.65 might be recouped by Waste Management’s pledge to freeze rate hikes that have been tied to inflation in exchange for implementation of the program.
The proposed program is voluntary in this sense: It would be left to residents to take recyclable materials to the curbside twice a month.
But in another sense, it’s not voluntary. For Lumberton to participate, all of its residents have to be enrolled. Waste Management can’t deposit a 96-gallon container at one house but not the next house as that would be a logistical nightmare. The containers accommodate a “single-stream” flow, meaning all recyclables go into it for sorting at a Waste Management facility.
We know that residents who already recycle would embrace the program as it would save them gasoline money that is burned as they travel to one of the two recycling sites the city now provides — a response to a state law forbidding aluminum cans from entering landfills.
But we don’t foresee a people’s revolt over a nickel a day, clinging to the ideal that most people want to be good stewards of natural resources, and would recycle if it weren’t such a chore. We encourage residents who agree to call their council representative and make that clear.
This is an opportunity that the City Council should not to waste. Who knows when it will come around again?